“Masculinity is a cage our culture imprisons men in”. I like this quote from Dr. Lissa Rankin in her article Women Stop Shaming Men. It conjures exactly the right image of a man trapped within the tight confines of acceptable and unacceptable behaviors imposed by the predominant beliefs of our society. But it’s also a metaphor for a kind of slavery. Men restricted from behaving in certain ways because of an invisible rulebook on what constitutes a real man.
This issue perplexes me but I also realize how complex it is. As a man who makes his living from selling manbags to other men I often find myself on the front line of this battle between the popular cultural prescription of masculinity and the struggle of confident, strong men to break out of these antiquated prisons of conformity.
Men constantly strive to be seen as strong: physically and emotionally. It is one of our greatest fears to be seen as weak, ineffective, dare I say effeminate. And in our weaker moments we react to any challenge to our manliness though either violence or by slinking away in shame.
But what about our own self-governing consciousness? How often do me make quiet decisions in our head about what to buy, wear, say, or support based on how these decisions are going to effect others perceptions of our masculinity? How often have we gone without rather than risk an attack aimed at our manliness?
Man shaming (#manshaming) is a nasty business. We men do it to each other but women are also guilty of it. Take this extraordinary extract from a recent post on my site about a men’s messenger bag:
There’s little that can be done to convince emotionally weak people to live and let live. This is because their belief systems drive their logic based on the desire for comfort and familiarity. Challenging a core belief often requires a complete paradigm shift, which causes other core beliefs to become dislodged, leading to temporary confusion and discomfort. Emotionally weak people avoid discomfort.
Far better for me to encourage more men to persevere with quietly pushing the boundaries of manliness: their perception as well as societies’. And to encourage their sons to do the same. In my opinion there is no greater display of strength than a man who demonstrates confidence in his role as a man in spite of the naysayers.
One of my favorite quotes of recent times came from an episode of Family Guy (believe it or not). In it Peter tries to shame Joe into not wearing a corsage. Says Peter, “They’re supposed to be for girls”
To which Joe calmly replies: “Hey Peter, why don’t you let me do me and you do you. Ok?”
Now. Who wants a manbag..